Foreign Currency

Foreign Currency

My assorted foreign currency. Japan, the UK, Canada, the EU, and… Serbia, I think? I don’t know, someone gave that one to me.

I love foreign currency. Whenever I leave the US, I like to bring back a little bit of money just to have it. I have random collections, okay? There’s actually a decent amount of money in that pile, but I don’t intend to ever have it exchanged to US dollars.

Of course, my biggest collection is yen! When I left Japan the last time, my employers paid out the tiny remainder of my salary in cash and I had a little bit of money in my purse, so I ended up bringing about $350 in yen back to Seattle. The salary I exchanged, of course, but I decided to keep the purse contents. And it seems like something nice to talk about, in case some readers are unfamiliar!


My remaining yen!

From the top down (right to left): ¥1,000 note, ¥500 coin, ¥100 coin, ¥50 coin, ¥10 coin, ¥5 coin, and ¥1 coin. At the current exchange rate, ¥1,000 is about $12 and a ¥1 coin is as useless as ever.

So that’s my little currency collection! Nothing overly exciting, but it still makes me happy.


A Bit of Engrish

Everyone’s heard of Engrish – that weird sort of pseudo-English popular in Asia. It can be found in most Asian countries (China has some excellent examples), but Japan is widely considered its home. This dubious honor is easily supported by the many, many pictures on the internet of strange signage, t-shirts, and other such things.

And today I have such a picture for you!

Engrish Menu

The menu at a seafood restaurant in Osaka. My favorite is “enough crab”. What guidelines were used here? Maybe I won’t think it’s enough. Did you ever think of that, person who clearly decided Google Translate could do no wrong?

Karaoke Music Videos

I’ve talked about karaoke before. In that post, I briefly mentioned the hilarious nature of most of the karaoke music videos. Since the chains rarely have use rights to the real music videos (or real music videos just don’t exist), they fill in with one from their video library. Do enough karaoke and you will become very familiar with every single one because there really aren’t all that many.

The best part of this process, though, is that they never seem to take into account the content of the songs. So most of the time you end up with a bizarre sort of mix-and-match that doesn’t make any sense. And that is what I’m sharing today: a few pictures from the weird karaoke files.

Karaoke Video

How about some low grade sci-fi with your Mary Poppins?

Karaoke Video 2

Hey look, it’s ’80s Man!

Karaoke Video 3

Wait, the real music video? What is this madness?

Karaoke Video 4


I decided to put the toy monkey brightly colored one last because it is the creepiest of all. It was actually the other half of the Mary Poppins video, which is even more peculiar given that it has absolutely nothing to do with the bad CGI, which in turn has absolutely nothing to do with Mary Poppins. It’s like a fractal of poor planning.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little foray into the strange world of Japanese karaoke videos! I only wish I’d thought to start taking pictures sooner because there were so many others I could have preserved for posterity.

Autumn Color

Autumn is slowly starting to set in here in the Pacific Northwest and I’m reminded of my autumns spent in Japan. So today is a short, simple post before I go to work, sharing a beautiful day from October 2008, right when the leaves were really changing.

Autumn in Saitama

Autumn in a park in Saitama.

Photo Post: Miyajima

It’s Wednesday, which means… it’s time for a photo post? Yeah, we can go with that. The subject: Miyajima!

Miyajima (宮島), actually called Itsukushima (厳島), is a small island in the Seto Inland Sea, specifically Hiroshima Bay. The island is famous for Itsukushima Shrine, which is why it’s referred to as Miyajima (shrine island). Itsukushima Shrine is a World Heritage Site, as well as one of the Three Views of Japan, and it really is very beautiful. I’ve been twice, so I hope you enjoy some pictures from my two visits!


Coming up on Itsukushima, from the ferry.

Itsukushima Torii

The famous “floating torii”. Unfortunately, both times I went the tide was out.

Itsukushima Shrine

Inside the shrine.

Itsukushima Pagoda

A pagoda from inside the shrine.

Itsukushima Town

The town on the island. There’s only one and it’s very small.

Itsukushima Island

The town and shrine from up one of the hills.

Miyajima is a lovely place and, if you go to Hiroshima (which you should!), please take an afternoon to check it out. Maybe you’ll have better luck than I have and get to see the torii float and everything!

Access: Take the JR Sanyo Line from JR Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi Station. Walk to the ferry pier and then take the ferry to the island. The train ride is about 25 minutes and the ferry is 10.

A Monk in Nara

Well, it’s been a few days since my last post. Sorry about that! My job, which involves about four solid hours of walking a day, really tired me out my first week. But I’m a little more used to it now, so the blogging can recommence! And what better way than with a Japan photo?

A Monk in Nara

A monk begging in Nara, near Todai-ji.

Buddhism (仏教/Bukkyou) is one of Japan’s two primary religions (the other is Shinto). It was introduced from China in the sixth century and, though it’s been in decline since the end of WWII, roughly 70% of the population still identifies as Buddhist. I could devote a very long post just to discussing Japanese Buddhism, but I’m not going to because I doubt most people would be very interested in the details. The short version is that there are still multiple schools – including Amidist, Shingon, and Zen – and Buddhism and Shinto in Japan are syncretic, meaning that they overlap and are not mutually exclusive.

But the real point here is to explain the picture! It’s very common in Japan to see a Buddhist monk begging. They stand or sit with a begging bowl in public places, chanting mantras. It’s a safe guess that the above monk is a practitioner of Shingon Buddhism because that’s the school Todai-ji is associated with. It’s interesting from a western perspective because we associate begging with people who are out of work, or attempting to scam you, whereas in Japan it’s typically a religious practice.

I’ve always liked seeing monks because, after a while, places normalize and you stop looking at them actively. But whenever I came across a sight like this, it was like a reminder that, oh yeah, I’m still in Japan. Always very cool.

Photo Post: The Oregon Coast

Last summer, just a few weeks after I came back from Japan, my friends and I spent a weekend at the Oregon coast. We rented a beach house near Tillamook and used that as our base camp while we went to a few places in the area. I don’t have a lot to say, but I do have pictures to share! And I can tell you how to get to Tillamook from Salem (and I suppose Portland, too, for practicality’s sake), to make this somewhat informative, as well.

Sand Dunes

Sand dunes! The sand was really hot, but we ran all the way to the top anyway.

Dune Trees

Trees at the top of the dunes.

The Sea

The sea!

Crab Races

Crab Races?

Oregon Coast

The coast at the edge of the world.

Sea Lions

Sea lions! There are a lot of them at the coast.

Access: You have to drive and it’s kind of far.

From Salem: Get on OR-22 W. After about 4 miles, turn onto US-101 N/Oregon Coast Highway. After about 25 miles, turn right to stay on the Oregon Coast Highway. About 14 more miles and you’ll hit Tillamook. Travel time: roughly two hours.

From Portland: Get on US-26 W/NW Sunset Highway via the ramp to the Oregon Zoo. After about 20 miles, turn onto OR-6 W. Follow OR-6 W for about 50 miles and you’ll hit Tillamook. Travel time: roughly an hour and a half.